Merc A-Class: An SA game-changer

2013-04-15 08:51

It was touted as the biggest car launch in South Africa thus far this year – a claim that, in my opinion, is most certainly justified. What am I talking about? The launch of the new, fully-imported A-Class from Mercedes-Benz, of course!

Mercedes-Benz South Africa president and CEO, Dr Martin Zimmermann told me at the launch in Cape Town: "Mercedes-Benz is becoming the most dynamic premium brand in the world."


As part of this development, the A-Class represents an important milestone. The A-Class is completely new, right down to the last minute detail.

“It’s not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper in automotive development. Our designers and engineers have made the very most of that opportunity.”

That quote was putting it mildly: the new A-Class is to my mind simply stupendous in looks and the way it drives. With prices starting at R273 718 for the 1.6 A180 BE version – this car is a real game-changer.

There’s a six-model range for South African buyers (plus diesel derivatives) with the range-topping A250 Sport version coming in at just below R400 000 – R392 606 actually – with an AMG version of the model due in SA before the end of 2013, according to Zimmermann.


Mercedes-Benz reckons it is opening up a whole new chapter in the compact segment by offering this their powerful new engine line-up offering from 80 to 155kW; best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.27 and, to prove the point about being really efficient in today’s world, the emissions tariff offers 98g of CO2/km.

It’s plain to see that this new model bears absolutely no resemblance to the outgoing model.

Divisional manager of MBSA, Mayur Bhana, said “If you still want a boxy, mom’s taxi with the three-pointed star you’ll have to step up the B-Class - a vehicle that still has a place in its own right.”

The slogan for the completely redesigned and totally fresh-looking A-Class is “The best or nothing.” How apt, methinks, because a lot of customers who would have until now been looking, for instance, at a BMW 1 Series , an Audi A3 or maybe even the new Golf will most certainly beat a path to Mercedes-Benz showrooms up and down the country – if only to get a test ride.

It’s that good.

Some background to the car reveals it was introduced to European buyers nine months earlier (July 2012) due to the fact that the biggest growth and demand revolves around the premium compact car segment.

Zimmermann emphasised: “Six billion cars of this type have been sold globally since 2011 from many manufacturers – a figure expected to rise to 10.6-billion by 2020.”


Mark Fetherston, team leader of the project back in Stuttgart, Germany, attended the SA launch and had this to say: “The new A-Class has a long, sporty front with a pronounced V-shape, separate headlights, radiator grille with a central Mercedes star and double slats to either side of the star, as well as the additional air intakes on the sides.

“The ‘dropping line’ apparent in the profile dissipates towards the vehicle's front. The design of the headlights, together with the configuration of the light functions within them, is key design elements.

“The light modules and LEDs behind the headlights covers have been arranged to create the characteristic ‘flare effect’ for the daytime driving lights and indicators.”

Moving inside the A-Class there seems to have been a step forward in terms of quality – both in the materials used and in the consistency of the design. The instrument cluster comprises two large round dials, each containing a small dial set. At rest, the dial needles stand at 6 o'clock.


The pointer inlays are white, although those in the sportier design and equipment lines such as Urban and AMG Sport are red. The dials on the sporty equipment lines and packages are silver with a chequered flag effect. The three-spoked leather-covered steering wheel comes with 12 function buttons and an electroplated three-star logo bezel.

To drive, this new model is simply superb. Without doubt you know you are driving a Mercedes-Benz, albeit the entry-level variety. All the cars available to test at launch were “loaded” with extras – one by as much as R95 000! I really don’t think Mercedes-Benz was simply out to impress motoring hacks, rather revealing how easy it is to “customise” your purchase with your cheque book.

Standard fare, incidentally, on the base model includes six-speed manual transmission, multifunction steering wheel, aircon, tyre pressure loss warning and all the usual creature comforts such as a six-CD/radio audio system, multiple crash bags, ECO start/stop function and front fog lights.

Undoubtedly there’s room for five adults because the rear seat provides ample room for three passengers. The boot volume is 341 litres, based on the VDA standard. If the rear seat backrests are folded down its capacity jumps to 1157 litres.

In all models the rear backrests split 60:40 and can be folded forward individually. The width of the luggage compartment between the wheel housings is 1050mm. Dimensions: measuring 4292 x 1780 x 1433 mm (length x width x height), compared with its predecessor (which followed an obvious very different design) the height of the vehicle has been reduced by 160mm.

• The A-Class has been a best-seller for a number of generations. Since its market launch in 1997 it has blazed a trail for a new vehicle class with its unique design, becoming a driving force in the compact car segment.

The second generation, launched in 2005, sold more than a million worldwide.

A180 BE - R273 718
A200 BE - R296 632
A250 BE Sport - R392 606
A180 CDI BE - R300 000
A180 CDI BE a/t - R310 100
A220 CDI BE a/t -R355 000


  • Sheldon Cairns - 2013-04-15 09:11

    I had one of these trying to drive me off the road on Friday evening in Cape Town. Same blue colour as the one in the pic. Another batch of w#nker drivers to flood our roads I guess.

  • Kwashirai Chigodora - 2013-04-15 10:00

    This is the car to bring a lil price competition that just might help with stabilising run-away hatch prices. its this or a golf. the only disadvantage to this will be the upcoming Audi A3 sedan... and the 1 Series with a boot. The A3 has the advantage of having a boot and looking extremely good without seeming like a last minute add-on. The 1 series is a toy... lacks in practicality. But a wonderful toy though.

      Trevor Bennett - 2013-04-15 10:20

      How does the 1 series lack practicality? I agree its not good looking, but how is that impracticality? The boot size and knee room in the new 1 series is almost similar to the other hatches.

      shelvine - 2013-04-15 14:16

      the 1 series with a boot will be the new 2 series. and I dont understand how those upcoming models will be a disadvantage. you not very clear to what point you want to make.

  • Gerrit Wium - 2013-04-15 10:02

    What do you drive Sheldon?

  • riotousr - 2013-04-15 10:07

    I am no fan of Merc but I am a registered sucker for hatchbacks. I am this close to selling my soul. I would not be surprised to find myself driving a car like this in 3 years time. It will have to have the following basics: keyless entry, 6 speed manual gearbox, panaromic sunroof, beer holder, stop-start function and full-sized spare wheel. See, I told you I was not greedy. Oh, it must also be LONGER than 3.5 metres bumper-to-bumper.

      Ruan Viljoen - 2013-04-15 10:39

      Beer holder?

      Trevor Bennett - 2013-04-15 10:42

      Yes beer holder for passenger ,no drinking and driving :-)

      riotousr - 2013-04-15 10:52

      Ruan Viljoen, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. My current machine has a very sturdy cup holder built into the centre console [between the gear lever and aircon controls]. The shaky/loose ones tend to irritate the drinking daylight out of me.

  • Peter H A Müller - 2013-04-15 10:10

    Note: it seems that the A180 CDI manual gets a Renault 1,5 diesel engine, while the A180 CDI auto uses the Merc 1,8 diesel engine.

      Trevor Bennett - 2013-04-15 11:01

      The C180 CDI manual is using the Renault 1.5L diesel engine. Mercedes didn't even do any tweaks on it, they just got it off Renault's shelf and used it. Which I think it should have dropped the prices of the A180 CDI manual seeing that they didn't do ant R&D on it.

  • Sihle Mthethwa - 2013-04-15 10:20

    Had the pleasure of test driving one over the weekend, and I must say I was impressed. Looking forward to taking delivery of my one in September.

  • Trevor Bennett - 2013-04-15 10:24

    "The new A-Class is to my mind simply stupendous in looks and the way it drives. With prices starting at R273 718 for the 1.6 A180 BE version – this car is a real game-changer" - How is this a game changer? The pricing is in line with the A3 and 1 series, and fuel economy as well? What's new that the A class is bringing to say its a game changer?

      Stig De - 2013-04-15 11:19

      Puzzles me as well, back in June last year when wheels24 reported that the base model will be 240k it got everyone excited and now no one has the guts to tell the world that they were wrong this thing is as expensive as A3 or 1 series it will boil down to choice it’s a downscaled B-class that we can all see. http://www.wheels24.co.za/NewModels/Mercedes-A-Class-pricing-and-specs-20120628

  • Erns Kleynhans - 2013-04-15 11:00

    Far more superior design than BMW 1. BMW should seriously do something about their styling on the 1 series, as it looks like a Polo from behind and just plain ugly from the front. I like BMW, but will surely go for the Merc in this segment!

      Trevor Bennett - 2013-04-15 11:05

      Agreed, and BMW should offer the M Sport kit on the 1 series for free, as that makes it better looking. A non M Sport just looks horrible from the front.

      Andy Rankin - 2013-04-21 19:58

      Anyone with facial hair should refrain from sharing design wisdom.... Stick to braaing.....boet

  • Stig De - 2013-04-15 11:04

    Mercedes-Benz South Africa president and CEO, Dr Martin Zimmermann told me at the launch in Cape Town: "Mercedes-Benz is becoming the most dynamic premium brand in the world." i was gonna say the same thing if i was on their payrol on a game changer story, i thought the A3 and 1 series are on that price range? and the golf is further below, at R310 100 for diesel that car is expensive for me.

  • Mickey Ballim - 2013-04-15 13:26

    Zimmermann emphasised: “Six billion cars of this type have been sold globally since 2011 from many manufacturers – a figure expected to rise to 10.6-billion by 2020.” surely the above cannot be correct, there are barely 6billion people on the face of this earth of whom only approx. 10% can afford vehicles

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